Harry Patch: the last British survivor of the trenches

When Henry John ‘Harry’ Patch died in July 2009 at the grand old age of 111 the horrors of trench warfare on the western front finally passed from living memory

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Somerset-born Patch was 18 years old when he was conscripted into the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, serving as an assistant gunner. Soon after being posted to the western front, he was injured by a shell at the battle of Passchendaele and was sent home to receive medical treatment. He was still convalescing when the Armistice was declared.

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He disappeared into obscurity until 1998 when – aware that he was one of a dwindling band of veterans – he agreed to speak to the BBC about his war experiences. Over the next decade, Patch became something of a celebrity, publishing an autobiography The Last Fighting Tommy, meeting a German veteran at Passchendaele and speaking with great poignancy about the carnage on the western front.

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On the death of Henry Allingham on 18 July 2009, Patch became the last British survivor of the trenches. He himself was to pass away seven days later.